Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

When in St. Louis, Consider the Saint

by Gailmarie Pahmeier


But first you must indulge in the requisite

ride in the Arch, 631 feet of pentecostal

promise, sunstruck mandorla reflecting

the urgent churn of the Mississippi below.

Stroll a ways to the Old Cathedral, light

a candle for your mother, your son, the dog

left to die on the tracks, all of the poor.

Eat toasted ravioli on The Hill, wander through

a church parking lot for fried chicken, or better,

pork steaks long cloaked in multiple bottles

of viscous sauce, served alongside baked onion,

sweet pickle and melon, ice-cold cans of Busch beer.

When in St. Louis, walk, eat, drink, and pray, but do

consider the saint himself, a mama’s boy

at heart, no soldier that one.  Consider

his long marriage to his teen sweetie,

their eleven alive children, his adored

possessions–the true Crown, a piece of the Cross.

And don’t forget to consider his glorious

head of hair, powdery curls, masterful

layering, near-perfect texture.  So when

in St. Louis enter a wig shop, try on

as many new selves as you can, try to believe

in each one, the mussed blonde, the sculpted redhead,

the coy brunette. Pay attention to the man

in the back booth, his tender touch as he adjusts

a woman’s turban, tells her it’ll all be OK, honey,

your new wig’s got real attitude.  Do all these

things while you can still speak, before the lump’s

irreverent insistence, while you can still see

more than smoke and shadow, before the cane,

the chair, the bed, the gate. Witness and testify.